Northern Illinois Birds

There are many different wild bird species in Illinois, and in this post we’ll look at some of the most recognized and well-known ones. Some of these species spend the entire year in Illinois, while others are migratory and only visit the state occasionally. We’ll look at 25 backyard birds in Illinois and discover a little bit about each species in this post.

After that, I’ll demonstrate how to draw birds to your yard, give you a crash course in the ten various kinds of bird feeders you may use to do so, and even point out a few prime locations for birding in Illinois.

What kind of wild bird species are there in Illinois?

The number of bird species present in North America, the United States, or even the state of Illinois cannot actually be determined with any degree of accuracy.

But according to Wikipedia, Illinois is home to at least 450 different bird species. There are 914 species in North America, according to one source, whereas another earlier source indicates there are 2,059 species there. It may actually vary because some of the rarer species come and go from year to year. However, it provides us a clue.

For the sake of this essay, we’ll merely focus on a few of the backyard birds that may be found in Illinois.

16 Backyard Birds in Illinois

The 16 backyard bird species found in Illinois are described here; some are year-round residents and some are not. These are undoubtedly only a small portion of the state’s species, but they represent some of the more distinctive and well-known backyard birds in Illinois. Let’s look right away, without further ado!

Northern Cardinal

In Illinois, where they may be seen regularly, Northern Cardinals spend the entire year. In 53% of summer checklists and 45% of winter checklists that bird watchers submit to the state, they are listed.

A male Northern Cardinal with its vivid red body and black face is an amazing sight, especially when set against a white winter landscape. Their beaks and crests are similarly crimson.

With their brown coloration, distinct brown crest, red accents, and red beaks, females are likewise a bit flashy.

In the eastern part of the US and certain southern states as far west as Arizona, Northern Cardinals may be found.

Northern Cardinals can be seen hunting for seeds, fruit, and insects in areas with thick foliage. During the breeding season, Northern Cardinals will occasionally attack their own reflection in an effort to zealously protect their territory.

Put out feeders with of sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, millet, and milo to entice Northern Cardinals to your backyard. They will eat food that is strewn about the ground, in hoppers, platform feeders, or big tube feeders.

Tufted Titmouse

Within their area, these little birds are frequently seen at feeders and in yards. Similar to Cardinals, they have a little crest (the “mohawk”) that makes it easier to distinguish them from other birds. Titmice have a black patch immediately above their beaks and are silver-gray on top and paler on bottom.

All year long, the Tufted Titmouse may be found in Illinois, exactly at the western limit of its distribution.

Titmice will visit the majority of seed feeders; provide them with black sunflower seeds and assorted seed mixtures.

White-breasted Nuthatch

Color and markings: The Blue-gray back, wings, and tail of the White-breasted Nuthatch are accented by a few little black feathers and very slight white border. With the exception of a conspicuous orange-brown patch just around the rump, the breast and underside are snow-white.

Having a white face with a black line running from the rear of the eye to the back of the head and a gray or black cap that reaches all the way to the back, this bird has a distinctive appearance. These birds have long, straight bills that are usually gray on the bottom and black on top.

Size: The length of this bird ranges from 5.1 to 5.5 inches, while its wingspan ranges from 7.9 to 10.6 inches.

Habitat: These birds enjoy older woodlands and have a specific affinity for oak and hickory trees. They either spend all of their time deep in the forest or playing at the edge of it, although they occasionally leave to visit backyard feeders.

Diet: If you put suet, peanuts, and Black Oil Sunflower seeds in your feeder, the White-breasted Nuthatch will come by.

American Robin

In Illinois, American Robins are among the most common birds.

They naturally occur everywhere, from woods to tundra, and they may be found in a broad variety of settings. However, these thrushes are used to being around humans and are frequently seen in backyards.

Due to the fact that they don’t consume seeds, American Robins, while being widespread, seldom frequent bird feeders. Instead, they eat fruit and invertebrate animals like worms, insects, and snails. For instance, I regularly observe robins sifting through the grass in my garden for earthworms.

These birds often build their nests close to people. Look for an open cup-shaped nest with three to five gorgeous, recognizable sky blue-colored eggs.

It sounds like the bird is saying “cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily,” according to many people who have heard it.

Dark-eyed Junco

Most often seen in Illinois from October through May are Dark-Eyed Juncos. They appear in 43% of checklists throughout the winter and are the most commonly observed sparrows at that period.

Depending on the state, Dark-eyed Juncos might be any one of several distinct colored sparrows. In the east, they are often slate-colored; in the west, they are typically black, white, and brown.

In the northern and western US states, as well as the Appalachian Mountains, dark-eyed juncos remain year-round residents. Those who breed in Canada and Alaska go south to the United States throughout the winter.

They are widespread over the continent and may be seen in open and slightly forested regions, frequently on the ground.

Use a variety of seeds, such as black oil sunflower seeds, nyjer, cracked corn, millet, and peanuts, to draw Dark-eyed Juncos to backyard feeders. The best options are platform feeders or distributed locations.

Little brown jobs, or LBJs, are the nicknames for sparrows, but if you want to learn more, read this guide to sparrows in Illinois.


Due to their “black cap” and black bib, chickadees are small little birds that are very simple to identify. Their underbodies are fluffy and light, and their underparts are pure white with gray wings and backs.

Black-capped Chickadees and Carolina Chickadees are the two varieties of chickadees found in the east, and they resemble one another quite closely. The majority of individuals can identify which one they are viewing based on their location. However, both chickadee species may be found in Illinois.

While Carolina’s are more common in southern Illinois and Black-capped are more common in northern Illinois, they overlap in the center. They frequent bird feeders and may frequently be observed darting from one feeder to cover and back again for more food.

Offer black sunflower seeds and mixed seed mixes to chickadees when they visit the majority of seed feeders.

Blue Jay

Blue Jays are incredibly beautiful, with blue backs, wings, and long, blue tails. Color and Markings The wings each feature a white wingbar with lighter colors of blue that are black-outlined around them to create a “scale” impression.

The predominantly blue wings are adorned with more white spots, and the scaling pattern continues on the tail in the form of bigger square “scales” with an almost white blue in the middle. This bird’s face is framed by a black line that extends from the rear of the head to the opposite side, while its breast and underside are a paper-white color.

The bird has a wide, light blue crest on its head and a white face. It also has a “abstract” mask that covers one eye and stretches out like a tree branch in front of it. The mask’s rear is a straight line that ends at the black line that separates the face. These birds have long, black bills that are straight.

Size: The length of these birds’ bodies ranges from 9.8 to 11.8 inches, while their wingspans range from 13.4 to 16.9 inches.

Habitat: These birds spend time in parks, cities, and particularly backyard feeders in such cities when they are not frequently seen at the border of the forest.

Diet: If you see a bluejay in your area, be sure to fill the feeder with suet, peanuts, and Black Oil Sunflower seeds. Perhaps you’ll meet a new buddy.

Downy Woodpecker

In Illinois, Downy Woodpeckers are among the most prevalent birds. They’re undoubtedly familiar to you because they can be found in most backyards.

Fortunately, it’s simple to draw this type of woodpecker to your garden. Ideally, suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts should be consumed (including peanut butter). They could be seen sipping sugar water from your hummingbird feeders, too! Use a dedicated suet bird feeder if you use suet goods.

My prediction is that you will start hearing Downy Woodpeckers everywhere you go once you learn what to listen for. Their cries sound like high-pitched whinnying noises that go lower in pitch as they go on.

Mourning Dove

In Illinois, mourning doves are visible throughout the year, but from July to September, when they breed, is when they are most numerous. They are listed in 28% of the state’s winter checklists and 38% of its summer checklists.

Mourning Doves have long tails, plump bodies, and beautiful little heads. They have wings that are a light brown tint with black markings. Men are a little bit heavier than women.

Mourning Doves are widespread across the lower 48 states throughout the year, however they occasionally move after nesting in the northern Midwest and southern Canada.

In meadows, farms, and backyards, mourning doves can be spotted perched on telephone lines and scavenging for seeds on the ground. They may also be found in open spaces at the borders of forests.

Put out platform feeders or sprinkle millet on the ground to draw mourning doves to your garden. They will also consume broken corn, peanut hearts, black sunflower seeds, and nyjer.

Eastern Bluebird

Bluebirds, as its name suggests, have a blue back and bellies that are rusty reddish-orange. Males have brighter coloration than females, who have considerably duller coloring.

They are probably much the most sought-after tenants of birdhouses in the United States, which has led to a boom in the bluebird house market. Although less frequent at feeders, they are fairly abundant in backyards. Install a birdhouse and try your luck at luring a mating couple; I was successful with a birdhouse I bought from Amazon.

Only in Illinois do the Eastern Bluebirds remain for the entire year.

Although bluebirds don’t normally consume seeds, mealworms and suet nuggets placed on a tray feeder or in a dish might tempt them to frequent feeders.

House Finch

Male House Finches are charming little fellows in terms of color and markings. They have medium-sized tails, brown or gray backs, and wings with two wingbars on each wing and vertical black streaking.

These birds have pink cheeks, gray skin around the eyes, and often one or two “zigzag” gray lines in the plumage. The breast is rosy red and gray, turning to white with dark streaking as it passes down the underbelly. Their gray bills are short, robust, and somewhat curved.

Size: The wingspans of these birds range from 7.9 to 9.8 inches, while their lengths are between 5.5 and 5.5 inches.

Habitat: Like the Blue Jay, House Finches are quite used to human culture and love spending time in parks, farms, and backyards when they are not at the border of the forest. They’ll come to your feeder, but because they like to travel in flocks, you’ll want to supply it full.

Diet: This bird primarily consumes insects and fruits in the wild, so try adding mealworms and some berries to your feeder (fresh is preferable over dried). You might just get the full attention of the House Finche.

Hairy Woodpecker

In Illinois, Hairy Woodpeckers are frequent visitors to old-growth forests, suburban yards, city parks, swamps, orchards, and even cemeteries. Actually, they are anywhere there are lots of big trees.

The most typical call is a brief, piercing “peek,” which resembles a Downy Woodpecker but is somewhat lower in pitch. They also emit a harsh whinnying or rattling sound.

Due to their resemblance to Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers might be a little challenging to distinguish. Many people find these two birds to be difficult to distinguish between, making it difficult to know which one you are seeing.

Song Sparrow

In Illinois, Song Sparrows are often seen from March through August, when they are laying their eggs. They are listed in 37% of summer checklists, and 9% of winter checklists. Some are present all year long.

Singing sparrows don’t have the most striking appearance of backyard birds, but in the spring and summer, these mostly brown-streaked birds utilize their virtually nonstop song to attract mates.

In the northern US states, Song Sparrows are year-round residents. For the winter, species that reproduce in Canada go to states in the south.

They can be seen in open, shady, and rainy regions, frequently singing while perched on a low bush. They can frequently be seen at backyard feeders.

Beetles, caterpillars, midges, spiders, and earthworms are just a few of the many insects and plants that Song Sparrows consume. They will also consume wheat, rice, buckwheat, sunflower, raspberries, wild cherries, and blackberries.

Black oil sunflower seeds, cracked corn, and nyjer should be placed on platform feeders to draw Song Sparrows to your backyard feeders.

European Starling

In the 1890s, 100 starlings were released in New York, and since then, they have taken over the entire nation. They seize feeders, damage other birds’ nests, kill their young, and prevent other birds from accessing the food you put out for them.

They have yellow beaks and feet and are primarily all black with white spots on their wings and backs. In the correct lighting, starlings may also be an iridescent purple and green color, which makes them incredibly attractive.

All lower 48 states, including Illinois, have year-round populations of starlings.

Nearly everything may be eaten by European Starlings. Since they are an invasive species, we advise against trying to draw them in because they will do so anyhow.

American Goldfinch

Coloration and markings: The American finch has a straightforward, beautiful plumage pattern that makes it easier to recognize them.

The shoulders of the spring males’ wings are yellow, and their backs have a bright yellow color. The rest of the wing is black, with a white wingbar on each wing, some vertical white striping in the middle, and various white markings on the long, black tail.

They have a yellow breast and underbelly, and from the rump down to the underside of the tail feathers, they have white spots. These birds have striking black caps that extend from the top of the head down to the beak, and they have yellow cheeks and short, orange conical bills.

Despite having duller yellows and olive-gray instead of the black seen in the males, females exhibit comparable colors. The drab brown hue of these birds in the winter may still be distinguished from others by their beak and their faint but still noticeable wingbars.

Size: These diminutive birds have wingspans that range from 7.5 to 8.7 inches and are between 4.3 and 5.1 inches long.

Habitat: Because these birds adore thistles, it’s likely that there are some of them living in any field with a lot of weeds. They are also not afraid of populated areas, frequently wandering into backyards, gardens, and orchards where feeders have been filled for their enjoyment.

House Sparrow

Males have chestnut skin on the sides of their face and neck, gray crowns, black bibs, white cheeks, and white cheekbones. The majority of their backs are brown with black stripes.
Females have backs that are a drab brown tint with black stripes. They are pale brown on the underside. The tan stripe that runs behind their eye helps to identify them.

Originally from the Middle East, house sparrows are today one of the most common and ubiquitous birds in Illinois and throughout the globe.

For nesting cavities, House Sparrows compete with a variety of natural species, including bluebirds and Purple Martins. Unfortunately, these invasive species frequently succeed.

House Sparrows are CRAZILY RARE in most urban and suburban regions. Their success is a result of their capacity for adaptation and proximity to people.

They enjoy grains more than the majority of birds and are frequently spotted at amusement parks, athletic events, and other places eating bread and popcorn. They particularly enjoy eating broken corn, millet, and milo at your bird feeders.